Preterm labor, commonly referred to as premature labor, is a major concern for expectant mothers and medical professionals all over. It describes the start of birth before the 37th week of pregnancy, which could result in the premature delivery of a child. Understanding this condition’s causes, symptoms, and potential preventive measures is crucial because it involves a number of dangers and implications for both the mother and the baby. Preterm labor affects 10% of pregnancies on average, and it has become more common in recent years. It can be caused by numerous factors that vary between maternal, fetal, and environmental ones. To manage and avoid this issue, these causes must be found and addressed.

Recognizing the symptoms of preterm labor is vital for timely intervention. Our team at University Park OBGYN is committed to educating our patients about these warning signs and encouraging them to seek prompt medical attention. We work closely with our patients to assess their individual cases, taking into account factors such as medical history, lifestyle choices, and overall health. By understanding these aspects, we can provide personalized care and implement preventative measures to minimize the risk of premature labor. 

In this blog post, we will dig deeper into the causes of preterm labor, risk factors, and symptoms, emphasizing the importance of early detection and appropriate management techniques. Keep reading to learn more. 

Understanding Premature Labor

Doctor Holding Hand of Pregnant Woman at Hospital

As the name says, premature labor is one that starts early. To be more specific, it starts before the 37th week of the gestation period. A normal pregnancy is considered to be at least 40 weeks long. When your body starts going into labor, it is ready for childbirth. Some of the most common signs of labor include contraction or muscle spasms and your water rupturing. If you are prepared to deliver the baby before the 37th week, you may feel your cervix dilating earlier than usual, as well as the mentioned signs. 

There are several factors that contribute to preterm labor, as listed below:

  1. Maternal factors – Medical conditions such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or infections of the reproductive tract can all contribute to your water breaking before the due date. Maternal age, particularly being under 17 or over 35, is also associated with an increased risk of premature labor. Additionally, lifestyle choices like poor nutrition, physical inactivity, or exposure to chronic stress may also heighten the likelihood. 
  2. Fetal factors – Saving the developing fetus is critical in premature deliveries. Various fetal conditions, such as chromosomal abnormalities, congenital irregularities, or intrauterine growth restrictions, can contribute to the beginning of preterm labor. Multiple pregnancies, such as twins or triplets, also raise the risk due to the increased strain on the womb.
  3. Environmental factors – Women may go into labor early if they were exposed to pollutants, toxins, or certain illnesses. The risk may also be increased by socioeconomic factors such as low income, restricted access to healthcare, or gaps in the distribution of healthcare.

It’s important to understand the complicated interactions between these maternal, fetal, and environmental factors in order to fully comprehend how serious premature labor is. In order to decrease the risks associated with this issue, medical professionals and pregnant mothers can work together to determine preventive measures and implement suitable treatments.

Preterm Labor Symptoms

Not every woman will experience the same symptoms throughout the pregnancy, and not everyone will have the same signs when going into labor. However, these are the most common preterm labor symptoms that you may notice:

  • Lower back pain or pressure – If you persistently suffer from pain in your lower back, you may be going into labor earlier than normal. Expectant mothers may feel discomfort or a constant ache in their lower rear, which is different from typical pregnancy-related backaches. 
  • Regular contractions before the 37th week – This is one of the primary indicators. These contractions are not the same as the usual Braxton Hicks ones that are experienced during the third semester. Preterm labor contractions appear at regular intervals and may be accompanied by other signs.
  • Vaginal bleeding or fluid leakage – Both of these are serious and should not be ignored. Bleeding can vary anywhere from spotting to heavier flow, while fluid leakage may indicate the rupture of the amniotic sac, which is commonly known as your water breaking. It is especially important to seek prompt medical attention if either of these symptoms appears.
  • Abdominal cramping – Cramps in your abdomen are significant to watch out for, as they can indicate the onset of preterm labor. These may feel similar to menstrual cramps but may happen more often or strengthen over time. The abdomen may feel tight or stiff during these cramping episodes.
  • Changes in vaginal discharge – Increases in vaginal discharge should be properly watched, especially if they start to resemble mucus, are watery, or have a bloody tint.

If you notice any of the above-mentioned preterm labor symptoms, we urge you to contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Early detection and timely medical intervention can make a significant difference in managing preterm labor and improving the chances of a healthy outcome for both the mother and the baby.

Risks of Preterm Labor

Senior Doctor Touching Belly of Happy Pregnant Woman Lying in Hospital Bed

As you probably know, several aspects can cause premature labor. However, your chances of going through it are higher if you:

  • Have a history of preterm birth – To reduce the likelihood of this repeating, pregnant women who have previously delivered a baby prematurely should be continuously monitored.
  • Have certain medical conditions – Certain medical conditions and complications like preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, placental problems, uterine abnormalities, and cervical incompetence can heighten the chance of preterm labor. Patients with these issues require specialized care.
  • Have multiple pregnancies – Carrying multiple fetuses in the womb, such as twins, triplets, or more, substantially raises the chances of preterm labor. The increased strain on the uterus and the higher likelihood of complications require constant supervision and specific treatment. 
  • Have had infections of the reproductive tract – These include bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infections, and sexually transmitted infections. Their prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial to reduce the risk of premature birth.

Aside from these risks of preterm labor, certain lifestyle choices and behaviors can contribute to the chance of complications as well. Smoking, substance abuse, including dangerous drugs, excessive alcohol consumption, and poor nutrition, have all been associated with an increased likelihood of early birth. Chronic stress and stressful environments have also been linked to an increased risk.


Preventing and managing preterm labor is of utmost importance to guarantee a positive pregnancy outcome. By adopting healthy lifestyle choices, including balanced nutrition, regular exercise, and stress management, expectant mothers can lower their risk of preterm labor. When necessary, certain medical therapies, drugs, or interventions, such as cervical cerclage, can provide support and minimize complications. Regular prenatal treatment and assistance are also important since they allow medical professionals to regularly monitor high-risk pregnancies. Therefore, it is important for mothers to stay educated and keep an eye on any of the preterm labor symptoms and work with their doctors to deliver a baby safely and happily.